And so the evening passed and night came. The doctor went to bed. Nekhludoff’s aunts had also retired, and he knew that Matrona Pavlovna was now with them in their bedroom so that Katusha was sure to be alone in the maids’ sitting-room. He again went out into the porch. It was dark, damp and warm out of doors, and that white spring mist which drives away the last snow, or is diffused by the thawing of the last snow, filled the air. From the river under the hill, about a hundred steps from the front door, came a strange sound. It was the ice breaking. Nekhludoff came down the steps and went up to the window of the maids’ room, stepping over the puddles on the bits of glazed snow. His heart was beating so fiercely in his breast that he seemed to hear it, his laboured breath came and went in a burst of long-drawn sighs. In the maids’ room a small lamp was burning, and Katusha sat alone by the table, looking thoughtfully in front of her. Nekhludoff stood a long time without moving and waited to see what she, not knowing that she was observed, would do. For a minute or two she did not move; then she lifted her eyes, smiled and shook her head as if chiding herself, then changed her pose and dropped both her arms on the table and again began gazing down in front of her. He stood and looked at her, involuntarily listening to the beating of his own heart and the strange sounds from the river. There on the river, beneath the white mist, the unceasing labour went on, and sounds as of something sobbing, cracking, dropping, being shattered to pieces mixed with the tinkling of the thin bits of ice as they broke against each other like glass.
There he stood, looking at Katusha’s serious, suffering face, which betrayed the inner struggle of her soul, and he felt pity for her; but, strange though it may seem, this pity only confirmed him in his evil intention.
He knocked at the window. She started as if she had received an electric shock, her whole body trembled, and a look of horror came into her face. Then she jumped up, approached the window and brought her face up to the pane. The look of terror did not leave her face even when, holding her hands up to her eyes like blinkers and peering through the glass, she recognised him. Her face was unusually grave; he had never seen it so before. She returned his smile, but only in submission to him; there was no smile in her soul, only fear. He beckoned her with his hand to come out into the yard to him. But she shook her head and remained by the window. He brought his face close to the pane and was going to call out to her, but at that moment she turned to the door; evidently some one inside had called her. Nekhludoff moved away from the window. The fog was so dense that five steps from the house the windows could not be seen, but the light from the lamp shone red and huge out of a shapeless black mass. And on the river the same strange sounds went on, sobbing and rustling and cracking and tinkling. Somewhere in the fog, not far off, a cock crowed; another answered, and then others, far in the village took up the cry till the sound of the crowing blended into one, while all around was silent excepting the river. It was the second time the cocks crowed that night.
Nekhludoff walked up and down behind the corner of the house, and once or twice got into a puddle. Then again came up to the window. The lamp was still burning, and she was again sitting alone by the table as if uncertain what to do. He had hardly approached the window when she looked up. He knocked. Without looking who it was she at once ran out of the room, and he heard the outside door open with a snap. He waited for her near the side porch and put his arms round her without saying a word. She clung to him, put up her face, and met his kiss with her lips. Then the door again gave the same sort of snap and opened, and the voice of Matrona Pavlovna called out angrily, “Katusha!”
She tore herself away from him and returned into the maids’ room. He heard the latch click, and then all was quiet. The red light disappeared and only the mist remained, and the bustle on the river went on. Nekhludoff went up to the window, nobody was to be seen; he knocked, but got no answer. He went back into the house by the front door, but could not sleep. He got up and went with bare feet along the passage to her door, next Matrona Pavlovna’s room. He heard Matrona Pavlovna snoring quietly, and was about to go on when she coughed and turned on her creaking bed, and his heart fell, and he stood immovable for about five minutes. When all was quiet and she began to snore peacefully again, he went on, trying to step on the boards that did not creak, and came to Katusha’s door. There was no sound to be heard. She was probably awake, or else he would have heard her breathing. But as soon as he had whispered “Katusha” she jumped up and began to persuade him, as if angrily, to go away.
“Open! Let me in just for a moment! I implore you!” He hardly knew what he was saying.
* * * * * * *
When she left him, trembling and silent, giving no answer to his words, he again went out into the porch and stood trying to understand the meaning of what had happened.
It was getting lighter. From the river below the creaking and tinkling and sobbing of the breaking ice came still louder and a gurgling sound could now also be heard. The mist had begun to sink, and from above it the waning moon dimly lighted up something black and weird.
“What was the meaning of it all? Was it a great joy or a great misfortune that had befallen him?” he asked himself.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00